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Notes From the Net

By Loren K. Woodard
Email Loren at lorenwoodard@charter.net or visit his web site at http://www.woodcarvers-gallery.com/

Welcome once again to Notes From The Net, a compilation of tips and techniques that were shared on the several wood carving Listserves on the Internet.




Wood Spirits

A member wrote to the Woodcarver's List indicating that he was doing a wood spirit carving for a friend and asked members of the List if anyone knew any history on Wood spirits. Several responded with great information concerning wood spirits.

Susan Irish wrote:

Wood spirits are a kin to a much older motif/image called the Green Man. The Green man dates back to circa 50 A.D. in Roman carvings. He first appears as a profile image with the leaves or vines emanating form his mouth and nostrils. By 200 A.D. he has become much of what we think of today with the full front facing male face that uses leaves in place of hair. This motif appears in just about every culture as a symbol of man being part of nature or man coming from nature, he is nature personified. It also implies man's control over or dominance over nature. Variations include leaf masks, American Indians wearing wolf skins, and the China's Shen Nong emperor.

Mike is quite correct about it's appearance in Europe, some of the earliest are a pair of leaf masks in a frieze at Trier Cathedral, circa 200 A.D. The Green man eventually became a major repetitive theme in Cathedral sculptures during the Medieval era. "The Green man" by Kathleen Basford, published by D. S. Brewer of Suffolk, UK, reprinted 1996 is an excellent source guide for both information and historic imagery.

The Wood Spirit, a version of the Green Man, can be traced to the Pagan religions with one of the best known called the Apple Man. Now the legend goes that the gods lived on earth and traveled among us. Each god or goddess had their specific influences upon nature and man. The Apple Man was the guardian for tree especially orchard trees and was said to reside inside the oldest Apple Tree in the orchard. Therefore, the oldest tree was both protected and revered by the orchard owner. Should the oldest apple tree die, then the Apple Man would die and so would the orchard.

Several of the Pagan gods sleep through winter, not finding much enjoyment in the cold weather. These gods take up their winter residence inside a fir or pine tree ... that's why the pine and fir do not lose their green needles during winter as the sleeping god protects the trees from the cold climate. So where deciduous trees appear dead having lost their leaves the pine still appears alive even in the worst weather conditions. Because early man considered winter the 'small death' for earth he used superstition to try and protect himself from it and to hopefully insure the return of spring. This was done by cutting a pine or fir tree, which of course had a sleeping god (Wood Spirit) inside it, then he brought the tree inside his home. The pine became the center of several rituals and was carefully tended to keep the god happy and safe. When it was about time for spring to come the tree was taken back outside to 'release' the god. Since the faithful Pagans had served/cherished their god well through the cold months, that god naturally rewarded his people by returning life to the earth.

And that, my dear friends, is why Christians have Christmas trees!!! The Christian church during their expansion era would enter a new area then begin to incorporate many of the area's religious practices and rights into their own rituals. That way the Pagan rituals and beliefs got sort of swallowed up by the Christian faith, making conversion more acceptable to the Pagans. :)

Susan Irish
Carving Patterns Online
Designs Online Since 1997!
Classic Carving Patterns By L.S.Irish


Mike Bloomquist wrote about how he tags his wood spirit carvings at Artworks. Check this out.

The Woodspirit

Being fierce and powerful protectors of the forests, wood spirits encourage respect for their world. One does not wish to cross a wood spirit, but are counted as fortunate and charmed to have seen one. Carving wood spirits is a European tradition which predates the colonization of America. A frequent project of Swiss and Austrian woodcarvers is to carve their interpretation of the wood spirit, and that tradition has caused them to migrate into our homes to be protectors of house and hearth.

Keep on Carvin'
-Mike Bloomquist-

Wooden Dreams Woodcarving


In addition, Lynn Diel provided a web site with information about green men (wood spirits).

John Jellies had a write up on wood spirits at his web site, http://members.aol.com/jjellies/DustyMustache/page3A27.html
Here is another url http://www.stonecarver.com/greenman.html. Additional information can be found on the internet using your search engine and looking up wood spirits, green man, etc.

Lynn E. Diel
Columbia, MO


Paint Schedule

Sharon Hallowell from the Fishcarver2 List provides the following tip for a paint schedule.

When painting a fish, use tongue depressors and paint one end with the color you're using and like, and write the combination of colors you used to achieve that color on the other end. Drill a hole in one end of the depressors and you can tie them all together, in order of steps for a particular species you're doing. When you go to do another fish of the same species, you'll have your own little "paint schedule", which you can use or adjust as needed. They don't take up much room and can hang anywhere in your shop.

While Sharon's information was written about paint schedules for fish, I see no reason why this technique couldn't be used for other items such as animals, Santas, etc.


Motivation Tool

Dan Blair, the owner of the Fishcarver2 List wrote a very interesting post about a possible motivation tool that all carvers could use. This is what Dan had to say.

I have always been intrigued with the names a lot of artists attach to their works of art. In recent posts, I have shared a few of mine with you. Quite often, I find the title to my carving before the carving even begins to take shape. With that thought in mind, I have a suggestion.

If you have an inspiration for a carving, but have never tried it for lack of whatever motivation or sufficient inspiration to carry it through to completion, throw it out there for some of us [on the Fishcarver 2 List] to consider the possibilities and offer comments and encouragements. I'll give you a few examples of my own to show you what I mean.

I have placed on a back burner waiting for the final spark to ignite my burning desire before meeting the challenge to carve a catfish laying on the lake-bed habitat surrounded by a dozen or two inch-long baby cats. The title came long before the carving in this case and I can think of nothing that seems more appropriate than "Cat Litter". (The baby cats are already cut out and ready to carve, and the big cat has been patterned and awaits the wood and band saw.)

Another thought I have been entertaining came back to life after reading the discussions in here among Ted, Frank, Gene, and a few others regarding Chain Pickerel and Northern Pike. About two years ago while entertaining thoughts of the World Championships, I considered creating an all natural wood carving in very deep relief from a piece of butternut or something similar and measuring "about" 15 x 30 inches. It consists of a woven tangle of lily pad stems, cattail rushes, and other aquatic plant life out of which protrudes about 18 inches of a pickerel or pike. In keeping with their nickname in numerous states where they are commonly found, I decided this one should be properly titled......."Snake In The Grass".

The most exciting and stimulating prospect I have coming up was inspired by a photo of a dead fish half encapsulated in dried mud. Close beside it lays the also sun-bleached and hollow casing of a crayfish. The mud is clay white and cracked. The fish is mud-and-dead-fish white with that portion from its gill covers to the trailing edge of its rib cage still hide and scale covered, but the fins and spine to the tail are totally skeletal in their nakedness. (as I wrote this, I received another inspirational thought from my Source of them all. I will add a footprint from a doe and fawn.) The enlarged photo is my pattern. And the title to this one also seems most appropriate...especially here in the

I think you see what I am suggesting. Got an idea for a carving but no idea for a title? Let us see what we can suggest. Got an idea for a title, but none for the carving to go along with it? Throw it out there and let's see what ideas it inspires among the many great minds who frequent this fishcarving pool of thought, words, and deeds.

Needless to say, I am a firm believer that good art tells a story that each and every one of us, as spectators, read in our own way. Just as with every best-selling book, I believe "best-selling ART" should have a title that arouses your curiosity and makes you want to open the cover to step into another world. For however many minutes or hours the author and artist can entertain us with their story, we have stepped into another dimension where worries, and pain, and sickness, and hunger, etc. do not exist. And for that brief moment, we are in a better place.

Dan Blair


Drying A Log

A carver found himself in possession of a ten inch log and wrote the Woodcarver's List asking about the best way to dry the log. The question was addressed by several carvers. I have picked two comments that I felt would be useful and a learning experience.

Phill Pittman wrote:

There is no simple way (if drying the wood) to prevent splitting without involving an environment with a partial vacuum in it. We carve large (and small) green wood regularly and anything you do that accelerates air flow past it will cause cracking where the air crosses the surface. (Aromatic cedar and a few imported oil laden woods are some of the only exceptions). Drilling holes will help if naturally drying, but hurt if you force air with the vacuum.

Making a vacuum chamber for a log is not as difficult as it seems. Large
schedule 80 PVC (the kind you will see around public sewer projects) will work in a pinch, but if it is something you might want to repeat later, a section of iron pipe that the log will fit inside of will do it. I got mine from a local scrap metal place and had enough left over for the "shop" smoker/bar-b-q). Welding a plate over one end and fashioning a removable plate for the other end will work for the vacuum. Remember a vacuum is self sealing and getting an airtight seal is more important than fasteners or bolts etc. It is also much easier to do. If your project allows, remove any surface of the wood that you can before drying, but keep the fresh cuts wet until you are putting it in the tube. The fluids inside the log will gasify at near room temperature in a 25" vacuum. If you are lucky enough to score a good vacuum pump, it will work at room temperature. As I am sure you know, wood splits when drying as air removes moisture from one location more than the rest. Usually this is the exterior of the wood. The resulting shrinkage from the loss of moisture is unable to occur because the interior wood still contains it moisture and it's original size. When using a true (partial) vacuum to remove moisture, the wood is not drying from the outside in. As the pressure drops the moisture, in a pretty uniform sequence, aspirates the moisture into gas which escapes the wood.

This process is accelerated by heated wood. This is the only difficult part. There are expensive heating blankets made specifically for vacuum kilns, but they represent a significant investment in the make-up of the chamber and the heater itself. Any heat source has to be contact only. Remember that a vacuum insulates and normal convection does not convey heat. Radiant heat (light in various forms) heats only the exterior and may cause uneven drying. All we do is pre-heat it just like an oven and try to get the vacuum pulled down while there is still some heat in the log. It will not cool down much after the vacuum has removed the air. (Think about a thermos jug.) When you heat it up you have to let it remain heated for several hours to insure that the interior of the log is the same temperature as the exterior.

You can get serviceable vacuum pumps off eBay for $50 bucks if you are only going to do it a time or two. The actual original purpose of the vacuum pump is inconsequential only that it will pull a 22" or better vacuum and run as required for several days. The drying time will depend on species, size, and too many other factors to name. But the thumbnail measuring method of choice is to weigh your entire contraption. If your log is of any size there will be a drastic weight change (usually a hundred or two pounds) as it loses moisture. When your assembly stops losing weight, you're done. At least as far as you can go without mortgaging the house. Commercial kilns dry 8/4 white oak for about 48 hours at 22" vacuum. Almost zero checking /splitting and a very uniform 6% moisture content.

Woodmizer (the same folks that make the saw mill) used to sell some light commercial vacuum kilns and are a great source for technical info.

All that being said, if you can find it, aromatic cedar is real forgiving the same day it is cut. We are in the middle of a 2000 piece run of "spirits" about 20" tall and 4" thick through the nose area. We produce about 50 a day out of aromatic cedar that is often saw milled on the same day we mount it on the machines. We have an occasional loss from internal checks, but they seldom appear to be from drying in the wind of the router motors, more like internal stress cracks with some resins visible.

I also have a friend that is about to try Vacuum bagging a log just like you were gluing laminate and putting to in a hot box in the sun. I will be curious to see how it comes out. In theory it should work the same.

And as said in the previous post, if you can stress relive the back, that is always going to give you a more long term stable product.

Phill Pittman


Lynn Diel wrote:

To follow up on what Phill wrote, there is an article in the Woodcarver Online Magazine located at the following url;
http://carverscompanion.com/Ezine/Vol2Issue4/Vol2Issue4TOC.html that talks about how you can build your own vacuum kiln.

Lynn E. Diel
Columbia, MO
Website: http://carvers-creek.com

If you haven't had the opportunity, spend and evening or two checking out back issues of the Woodcarving Online Magazine. You'll find a vast amount of information about woodcarving there.

Until the next issue, keep carving and strive to make each carving your best one yet!

Loren Woodard

Please take some time and check out the wood carving lists on the Internet. There is a lot of knowledge free for the asking on all of the list serves.

For information regarding the various email lists for woodcarvers, visit The Carvers' Companion Resource Files, or click the links below.

Woodcarver's List - Woodcarvers' Porch - American Stickmaker's - Knotholes List - Fishcarving List2

Editor's Note: Disclaimers and Cautions